Last year, when the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill headed to the Senate floor, Jeff Sessions filed no less than 15 amendments. It was pretty clear the junior senator from Alabama was out to kill the bill.
In person Sessions doesn’t look like the bill-slayer type. Polite and affable, he comes across as a perpetual “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” rather than a bulldog.
Most recently, he‘s gained the reputation of being the most aggressive and dogged opponent of the amnesty bill passed by the Senate last year. Sessions fought the bill to the last vote in the Senate. And to this day, he peppers the press with news releases articulating the downside of amnesty and bucking up amnesty opponents in the House.
And what if the lower chamber passes some form of immigration bill and sends it back to the Senate for conference? Noting that Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., has vowed to “conference” any House-passed measure into a “comprehensive” amnesty-granting bill, Sessions has vowed to fight the battle all over again.
It is not that the senator opposes fixing the nation’s flawed immigration system and broken borders. Last year Sessions told the Washington Post he wants to “see good legislation passed and do it in a way that’s responsible and compassionate. …” But, he sees the current bill as much too Obamacare-ish: a massive, complicated, fiscally irresponsible bill, cobbled together by special interests and bound to create more problems than it solves.
Because he has stood so far out front, he has taken a lot of heat. He’s a regular target for liberal bloggers and pundits like Rachael Maddow. But, Sessions doesn’t back off.
One might wonder why he picked an explosive issue like immigration for his lonely crusade. But the impetus for his determined stand is clear: a total commitment to the rule of law. Before running for the U.S. Senate, he served as both a federal prosecutor and state attorney general. After serving as a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, Ronald Reagan nominated him for a federal judgeship, but later withdrew it in the face of Democratic opposition. Sessions’ entire professional career has been shaped by the belief that impartial justice is the glue that holds a free society together.
Sessions sees quite clearly that passing an immigration bill designed to make immigration law unenforceable would do violence to the rule of law. Passage of any amnesty bill will simply encourage more people to disregard the law and enter the country illegally.
The 1986 amnesty helped tempt millions of people to immigrate illegally in the hope of one day receiving amnesty. Rather than repeat that error, Sessions is holding out for a reform bill that will actually fix the current system.
For example, Washington can reform the non-immigrant visa system to help employers get the hard-to-find workers they need to grow the economy. And the government could resume enforcing existing immigration and employment laws rather than intentionally hobbling enforcement. These common-sense measures are supported by the vast majority of Americans. Better to “start small” with broad support rather than push through a “comprehensive” bill cobbled together to satisfy Washington’s most highly paid lobbyists.
In the end, Congress may do the right thing and put the principle of rule-of-law above a politically-driven amnesty. If that happens, no one will deserve more credit than the not so quiet lion from Alabama.
Originally appeared in the The Washington Examiner.